Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Such a Rush (Jennifer Echols)

Title: Such a Rush
Author: Jennifer Echols
Publisher: MTV Books
Length: 325 pages
Rating: 4.5/5

Leah has lived in trailer parks near airports all her life, taking care of her irresponsible mother. When they move to yet another trailer park in Heaven Beach, South Carolina, Leah gets a job at the local airstrip and finally finds a way to escape. She saves up enough money to buy a flight lesson from Hall Aviation, and the rush of her first trip up changes her life. By her senior year, she’s been offered a job flying advertising banner planes for Mr. Hall. But when he dies suddenly, Leah’s future as a pilot is put into the hands of his teenage twin sons who have inherited the company. Adrenaline junkie Grayson not only blackmails Leah into continuing to work for a seemly-doomed company, but he also has her pretend to date his brother. Leah may resent people calling her trash, but she can’t deny that her life has gotten rather messy.

You guys all know my love for Jennifer Echols by this point. And honestly, my biggest critique about this book is that I’ve read it and now have to wait a while for the next Echols book to come out. I’m not sure I can handle that kind of wait again! Alright, enough with the melodramatics; let me tell you why I loved this book.

Leah is a disaster. The story starts when she’s 14, already adult enough to take care of all the finances and decide that she doesn’t want to turn out like her mother. Leah needs to figure herself out, and this story is in a lot of ways about how she saves herself. The novel starts a little slow, explaining all this, but it’s necessary to get a good feel for Leah before the boys show up in their delicious story-dominating ways.

Oh the boys, swoony as always. And twins, my favorite kind! Both Grayson and Alec have hidden motives in their return to run Hall Aviation. While Leah has seen them from afar the last three years, they’ve never really interacted. But now that their dad is gone, the boys are forced to be the adults, just like Leah. So they’re figuring out their lives as well. Of course it gets complicated, and of course Echols knows how to write wonderful romance.

The book itself is quite a rush. Leah wants to be a pilot; it’s her escape and her chance to get that adrenaline rush. I learned a lot about flying and planes, and loved the way they worked metaphorically throughout the story.

The only thing I would change about this book? The girl on the cover’s hair is straight, whereas Leah’s is decidedly curly. But I’ll excuse this slight change because I love that on the back of the book, book bloggers, just like me, are quoted for reviews. It’s clear I should use words like “captivating” and “mesmerizing” more often in my review. This I will work on!

Check out this fun interview with Jennifer Echols!

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chobosky)

Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author: Stephen Chbosky
Publisher: MTV Book
Length: 213 pages
Rating: 5/5

“Dear friend” the book begins, as Charlie writes down his fears and feelings about starting freshman year of high school. These letters take us all the way through Charlie’s year as he embraces his wallflower status but also learns how to participate in life, with new friends, first dates, and family drama.

This is one of those “how has this book not been in my life before this moment??” kind of books that so perfectly sums up the feelings of growing up. It’s epic and thoughtful and nostalgic and touching and oh so wonderful. Originally published in 1999 (with its events taking place in 1991 and 1992), its references to mixed tapes and home phones don’t seem outdated, but instead add to the nostalgic feeling from your childhood that you’re (as Charlie puts it) INFINITE as a teen. It’s just you, your friends, and endless possibilities.

This book is perfect for anyone who has felt alone, only to find friends that make them feel alive. Unlike most the YA of our day that focuses on personal self-discovery, Charlie’s self-discovery is communal. Yes, he finds himself, but only though the encouragement of his friends, family, and a very special English teacher. It’s easy to connect to Charlie as a character because he is so open and honest about his emotions through his letters.

I really can’t gush about this book enough, but I must stop and warn you that there are definite PG-13 moments, including drugs, sex, and alcohol. But accepting those things with maturity is part of growing up.

Now I’m terribly excited for the movie (directed by the author himself). It comes out in selected cities TODAY!! Here is the trailer:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Meeting the Merry Sisters of Fate

The Merry Sisters of Fate: Maggie Stiefvayer, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff. YA authors, critique partners, and now co-authors of the new book, The Curiosities.

I was lucky enough to meet these three lovely ladies at an event hosted by the Lawrence Public Library on August 25th. Here's what I learned:

Maggie, searching for critique partners (authors who will read your work and provide helpful suggestions before your editor does), turned to the internet, and after a little critique partner dating, found Tessa and Brenna. After a short time, she introduced them to each other, saying, "you will be friends!" Soon, Maggie had an idea that they should each write a short story a week to improve their writing and have a chance to take new risks. And the Merry Sisters of Fate website was born. Tessa calls them "speculative fiction writers" and their website describes itself as "the dark, the weird, and the strangely beautiful." In The Curiosities, they hope to show their variety and growth from their experiments on the Merry Sisters website. It's an especially fun book because it doesn't just contain stories, it also includes comments on their own work, hand-written in through magical computer software.

Through the event, Maggie, Tessa, and Brenna contrasted their very different writing styles, but agreed on some helpful writing tips. Maggie described books as mixed tapes; they have individually important aspects, but must be cohesive. Tessa suggested that to write a character, you must know one true thing about them. Once you've found the one core value that makes them real, you work from there. All agreed that knowing too much about a character is unhelpful. Brenna helpfully reminded us that something you get your ideas from the most bizarre things. Their advice for writing a good query letter to a publisher? "Just be sexy."

Here they are signing books:
(Maggie on the left, Brenna in the middle, and Tessa on the right)

Look for a review of the book, coming soon.